2 university students bilked of $150K in extortion scam
'Resist the pressure to act quickly and watch out for urgent pleas,' police say
Two university students have been defrauded of more than $150,000 combined as part of a wire-transfer extortion scam, Waterloo regional police said.
The investigations prompted the police service to issue a warning to the East Asian community in the region to be aware of the scam.
Both scams were similar, police said in a release. The students received phone calls from someone who said they were with the Chinese government or the Chinese embassy. The person said the students had been "implicated in the commission of a criminal offence in China."
The students were asked to report their location and activities to "Chinese authorities" several times a day and the students were led to believe they were speaking with authorities, including police, lawyers and judges, in other phone calls or online. One individual provided an "authentic looking, digitized police identification" and identified the chief suspect in China by the name of Liu Yan.
"A request for access to the victim's bank account in order to 'prove' that illegal money was not laundered through their accounts, and a subsequent request to transfer large sums of money to a bank account in Hong Kong that specializes in 'money tracing,'" police said.
In both cases, the two university students were intimidated, threatened with jail and there was a request for secrecy by the "authorities" who called them.
Stop, pause, think
Police said people need to stop, pause and think when they receive a call or email like this. People should not provide personal information, including bank account information or social insurance numbers, to people over the phone.
"Resist the pressure to act quickly and watch out for urgent pleas that play on your emotions. Fraudsters will attempt to elicit fear in efforts to make a financial gain, and may direct you to not communicate with family or friends prior to the transaction," police said.
Police ask anyone who believes they have been the victim of a scam and have suffered a financial loss to report it through the service's website or the non-emergency number at 519-570-9777.
For people who have received similar calls or messages, but did not experience a financial loss, they're asked to contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at 1-888-495-8501 or visit the Anti-Fraud Centre website.
'I was terrified'
Last year, University of Waterloo student Aaron Yau was defrauded of $100,000 in a similar scam. He spoke to CBC Kitchener-Waterloo to raise awareness about the scam and to help others avoid it.
In Yau's case, he received a call stating a package in his name was being held by customs officials in China because it contained banned materials.
"I was terrified for the most part. I started panicking. You never want your name to be associated with any criminal activity, especially when you've been a good citizen," he said.
Yau said the stolen money has added to financial challenges he already faced from student loans.
"I wanted people to know more about scams in general. I wanted people to know about what happened to me in case something similar happened to someone else," he said. "It was something that I never thought could happen to me."